Socially Engaged Monastic Schools (SEMS) – Myanmar

Awipi (Coordinator)

3 Pilot Sites (scroll down for more details)

  1. Shwenadi Monastic School (Kyaukpadaung, Mandalay Region)
  2. Laythar Taung Monastic School (Dipeyin, Sagaing Region)
  3. Wannitayon Monastic School (Salin, Magway Region)

SEMS2Background: The Buddhist monastery in Myanmar has been a mainstay in preserving and passing on traditional values to succeeding generations. With a monastery in every sizable village and an average of 4–5 monasteries in a medium-sized town, the effect of the abbots of those monasteries in their role as primary educators and purveyors of social norms and ethics can be overwhelming. Since 2011, SEMS programs have been using the monastery as a base to teach ideas and skills for sustainability to the larger community and to 16,000 children from 60 schools in 10 states and regions across Myanmar. They have begun to develop various environmental activities, such as earthen buildings, organic kitchen gardens, and high energy cooking stoves as well as engaging in tree planting, community forestry, and trainings for sustainability.

Temple Design: Most temples are made of brick and not very It is hard to rebuild all these in their network, so their focus is on building monastic schools and other temple buildings out of sustainable and beautiful eco-materials, the principal target source being bamboo. There are 103 varieties of bamboo in Burma, which offer a rich resource for temple facility construction. They know how to build using bamboo, and they have workers. They work to harvest the bamboo and treat it with fewer chemicals so the building lasts longer. There is also bamboo charcoal, which is good for fuel, and the liquid that comes out can be used as insecticide in the fields and other uses. However, they are not so skilled in alternative design, and such architects are often very expensive. Good alternative architects are important, because they know how to alter design to fit climate, staying warm in the cold climate and vice versa. Read a PDF file report on their Bamboo Treatment Training Workshop. They have 3 pilot sites, which if they can make successful can attract interest and funds from big temples with funds. One of the participants from Japan, Chisa Yamashita, has been working with a Buddhist foundation building temple schools in Myanmar who might be interested in supporting SEMS work.

SEMSSurrounding Environment: The use of concrete around the temple is an increasing problem. They have created study tour programs to teach monks how to use monastic lands ecologically without concrete. There is also the problem of deforestation on temple lands leading to landslides and floods. One monk, Yuzana, is trying to restart growing bamboo in dry areas and needs expertise support in this (see detailed project below). Phra Sangkom from Thailand has offered to visit and share his expertise in mud adobe housing and using banana to restore dry areas. The use of plastics and waste management are yet another problem. Their schools collect the plastic garbage but don’t know how to dispose of it. Two participants offered connections for how to recycle it for making roads and other technologies for recycling.

Eco-Dharma: As Burmese monks usually don’t want to study from lay people, the eco-temple network could help by sending a group of eco-monks from other countries to teach them about ecology. They would also like to participate more in study tours, like the ones run by JNEB in Japan or the Spirit in Education Movement (SEM) in Thailand, where monks can actually see examples in other countries.

Economic Basis: As noted, once they gain the awareness and interest of monks and temples, there are local resources, both financial and other, for this work. However, they are still in need of seed capital for these projects to gain the initial awareness and support, such as funding for bamboo treatment, construction of bamboo buildings, and resilient bamboo forestry as well as a few resource experts in bamboo design. One possible source for such support that was recommended is the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), an intergovernmental organization established in 1997 by a treaty created within the United Nations and hosted in Bejing, China.

Shwenadi Monastic School

Kyaupaduang, Magway Region, Myanmar

Ven. Yuzana, the abbot, and Socially Engaged Monastic Schools are working on two projects: 1) a training center development in Shwenadi Monastic School and 2) another learning center and bamboo forest for spreading bamboo technology and products.


1) Training Center Development at Shwenadi Monastic School

Shwenadi Monastic School was established in 2009 for providing educational services up to 8 grades to poor children in the area. Currently it has 450 children (including novices and orphans). It has been taking a leading role of monastic schools in its region working with another 8 monastic schools. Therefore SEMS is working on developing a training center there for providing teacher training, workshops for abbots who are running monastic school, and for other community development training. It will be also developing as eco-temple. Recently the abbot has planted thousands of trees in the school compound and built nursery. For a full map and design layout of the center, click on this PDF file –> Shwenadi Training

2) Bamboo Learning Center

Shwenadi Abbot just bought 94 acres of land not far from Shwenadi Monasti School. The land is for developing learning center for community development especially in bamboo technology and products, growing elephant grass for cows in the area, and resilient bamboo forest. It would generate funds for running Shwenadi Monastic School as well. So far the abbot just bought the land and we are starting development of plan.

Update November 2016

SEMS is now planning to set up its own “eco-center” in Pyin Oo Lwin, near Mandalay, for the sustainability of their work – mainly providing training and workshops for monks, nuns, and school teachers who are engaged in education and community development in their community based at monastery.

Shwenadi Monastic School


  • shwenadigrassset up nursery farm and elephant grass farm to provide to local farmers for their cows
  • completed bamboo treatment training workshops and bamboo treatment tank for bamboo preservation
  • completed bamboo building training workshops and bamboo roof of bamboo training hall
  • reserved 2 pieces of land for resilient bamboo forestry


  • shwenadibamboohousemore tools for bamboo building and furniture
  • 2 more training workshops for bamboo technology and resilient bamboo forestry

Naungtaung Monastic School

Location: Hopong, Shan State


  • monksbamboocompleted bamboo treatment training workshops and bamboo treatment tank for bamboo preservation
  • reserved 1 piece of land for resilient bamboo forestry


  • 2 bamboo buildings (1 for classroom and another for library)
  • 2 more training workshops for bamboo building and resilient bamboo forestry

Wailuwun Monastery-based Vocational School

Location: Kali, Shan State


  • received donation of 64 acres of land
  • reserved 11 acres of paddy field for organic farming for demonstration and practice


  • permaculture design, bamboo treatment tank, earthen and bamboo buildings for school
  • setting up vocational school


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